Central Oregon’s residential property values rose faster in the mid-2000s’ housing bubble and fell harder in the 2008 crash than those in other Oregon areas. Bend, especially, has been a boom-and-bust kind of town since at least the late 1970s. The bust cycle has ended for Bend once again, and once again housing prices are climbing steadily, while the vacancy rate for rentals is less than one percent. Less than five years ago, hundreds of platted residential lots couldn’t be given away, but now land for new development is tight and the scramble is on to meet demand for new housing.
While part of the problem is, of course, the pent-up demand from the bust, it is probably also significant that the City’s urban growth boundary hasn’t had a meaningful expansion since it was first established in 1981.
Bend began its first comprehensive attempt at expanding its urban growth boundary in 2004. In January of 2011, the Land Conservation and Development Commission (“LCDC”) acknowledged part of the City’s boundary expansion, but remanded the rest. The City hopes that it can complete the remand items by the end of 2016. The urban growth boundary is supposed to include a 20-year supply of buildable land. According to Andy High, of Central Oregon Builders Association, there is currently a one-to-two-year supply.
Even if Mr. High is off on his estimate by 100 percent, that will make little difference to the average homebuyer and renter in Central Oregon. The fact is that due to possible additional remands and appeals by expansion opponents, it could still be years before more land is brought into Bend.
To help cut down on the time it will take the City to get through the boundary expansion remand, State Representative Knute Bueler, R-Bend, introduced HB 3282 in February 2015. The bill has since passed the House and Senate and awaits signature by Governor Brown. The bill provides two simplified paths for cities outside the Portland metro region to address issues on remand from LCDC, which should help Bend complete its urban growth boundary expansion a little sooner than otherwise. For the foreseeable future, however, expect that the current housing crunch in Bend will only continue.